My first experience with the rains of Calcutta was many years ago. It was for the first time that I was witnessed the fury of the lashing Bengal monsoon rains: the Kalboishakhi.
I was at work and those days my only commute was the public transport of the Ambassador taxis of Calcutta.
My colleagues were discussing how to catch the local transport and get home. I didn’t quite realize the fuss and being the boss I told them to calm down and wait till the downpour stops.
The hours passed nothing happened. It got heavier and heavier the thunder got louder, ruder and skies were darker.
Finally at 6.00 pm I said “Ok let’s leave. We are done for the day.” As I stepped out of my building, there was no street in sight. The water was knee deep, rickshaws submerged, dogs swimming and men with plastic packets on their heads braving the flood to their way back home. The trees were swaying violently, the hoardings looked like thin sheets of paper, the electricity wires were shooting fire like it was festival aimed to maim and kill people.
Never in my life had I ever witnessed the Earth in such fury. I stood staring at this unfathomable sight and tears started streaming down my face. I felt insecure near the screeching sounds of the storm and the rains.
I missed home, I missed Delhi and I was stuck in a city that I didn’t belong to and streets that were not to be seen. Only over time I fell in love with the City Of Joy.
My colleagues were my only family in Calcutta. They stood with me and I was ridden with guilt of not having understood what the Bay Of Bengal storm is all about. My colleague held my hand and as I put my feet into the water — there was no ground below. I felt like I was walking on nothing. Each step was treacherous. The water was rising higher and higher. The current got stronger with every tense second I spent in the water.
I saw affluent-looking men and women of abandon their fast, fancy cars on the street and walk towards safety. I bunched up my Sari and walked with the milleau and the courage of my colleagues.
Your first step into that almost waist-thigh, deep water of muck, dogs, and potholed streets, is a sheer leveler of human beings. It will remain with you as a life lesson in humility.
As I walked I eventually forgot about the mucky water and all I thought was how helpless we are against nature and how even the rich and the poor were walking together with one goal, just to reach safety.
We are lucky to have the privilege of owning a car, but when it’s Kalboishaki, you’re luckier to have a set of sturdy legs and the learned, weathered grit of the workers and daily wagers we’re so far removed from. They laughed and maneuvered the streets better than what most others did.
My heart today is again frozen in pain & fear of the Amphan cyclone that has displaced 6.5 L and killed and created havoc in West Bengal, Orissa and Bangladesh.
I remember being flooded with news about Australian and Amazon wildfire. I am wondering why it’s taking so long for Amphan to get the same level of attention and pathos of the environmentalists of India and the world. I am yet to see the cries and the protest. I am yet to see the same level of interest, viral posts and venture-funded innovation to prevent the annual savagery of the Indian Monsoons.
Storms, viruses and natural calamities spare no one. How pseudo some of us are sharing and crying about popular global events so we can look cool, ignoring the ones that happen in our backyards. Have we not learned during this lockdown insignificant and vulnerable we all are without each other? There are people right here that need our help. Let’s help them.
Click the links below to see how you can help, volunteer and donate towards the Amphan Cyclone relief efforts: